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Does Nikki Finke Make Up Quotes? A Pajiba Pseudo-Investigation

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | June 20, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | June 20, 2011 |

There’s a lot I don’t understand about Nikki Finke, the woman behind the trade news website Deadline, who is also known (at least according to her Wikipedia page) as “most feared, despised, and uncompromising journalist in Hollywood.” She’s famously reclusive; there’s really only one usable image of her around the Internet, and everyone is terrified of her. Yet, studio sources are quick to give her quotes and scoops, despite that fear. As someone who doesn’t apparently leave her house, Finke — as is evident from the box-office reports — rarely actually sees any of the films she discusses. Typically, she makes a lot of suppositions based on marketing and her own level of annoyance with the stars involved in those films, and combines that with the numbers she receives. But she’s first, so she’s respected because that’s the way the game is played. It’s a shame, too, because if you read her long enough, it often feels like she doesn’t even like movies (If you have ever read some of her leaked email exchanges or heard accounts of her from those who have had run ins, she also sounds a little psychologically troubled, paranoid, and angry.)

That sneering attitude is certainly evident in her weekly box-office reports. Like a lot of folks, I check Deadline each Friday night to get early numbers for the weekend box-office (for more interesting, thoughtful analysis, I also check out Mendelson’s Memos on Saturday morning). What’s interesting to me about Finke’s box-office reports is that most of the analysis and quoting is done on Friday night; over the rest of the weekend, she simply updates the numbers. And yet, given the short window with which to work on Friday evenings, Finke also has the almost miraculous ability to track down a snarky quote from a studio source that always seems to back up her own observations. And her sources very often all seem to have a similar sense of humor. In fact, if you read Deadline often enough, that sense of humor might sound familiar — it’s sourpus crossed with bad puns. Like, Bruce Vilanche with a bad attitude. I did some sleuthing on her website, and found this random series of quotes from various box-office reports, all from “rival studio execs.”

  • On Green Lantern: “Every time I turn my TV on, I think I’m watching the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, there’s so much green slime going on,” a rival studio exec snarked to me.

  • On The Expendables: “Are The Expendables wearing Dependables?” one rival studio exec snarked.

  • On Never Back Down: It “looks like they’re selling the Abercrombie & Fitch of it all,” one rival studio exec wisecracks. “They’re totally marketing the eye candy to appeal to a mass teen audience.”

  • On Iron Man 2: “Hey, it’s Iron Man, not Platinum Man,” one rival studio exec quipped.

  • On Justin Bieber: Never Say Never: “Bieber fever hasn’t broken but at least he’s sweating,” a rival studio exec said tonight.

  • On the marketing of Duplicity: “If I see that laugh in one more spot for this movie, I may break my TV,” one rival studio exec snarked to me.

  • On You Again: This’ll make that weak opening weekend number “only if the Betty White crowd shows up Sunday for their senior matinee discount”, one studio exec snarked to me.

  • On Repo Men: As one rival studio exec snarked to me tonight, “Looks like the idea for Repo Men should have been repossessed.”

  • On 2012: “Really, how many times can you get away with destroying the White House? Nice touch taking out the Vatican, though, even with the Pontiff on the balcony,” snarked a rival studio exec to me.

  • On Sucker Punch: “Sucker Punch joins Kick Ass as ‘can’t miss’ cool pics that missed,” one exec snarked.

  • On Seabiscuit: “I think when you take the beautiful Diane Lane and turn her into a frumpy aged-up woman, you’re flirting with danger. Then there’s the whole horse thing, which is probably second only to boxing in moviegoing ‘who cares?’.”

    I’m not actually suggesting anything here, and certainly not alleging that Finke makes up quotes, but I do find it odd that all these “rival studio execs” seem to have a similar sense of humor and fondness for puns. Maybe all Hollywood rival studio executives work from the same brain? Or maybe, as studios often do with critics, Finke feeds blurbs to these anonymous sources and has them sign off on them. It’s squicky, that’s all I’m saying.

    As for the box office this weekend? Green Lantern opened at number one with $52 million, and depending on who you ask, that’s a decent number or a dreadful one (it’s less than Watchmen, for instance, which was considered a failure, but it’s also close to the numbers for Thor, which was considered a modest success). It is evident by the diminishing returns over the weekend that bad word of mouth has taken a hit on the film, and a Cinemascore of a B is practically a D- in real person terms (Cinemascores typically run really high). With Cars 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon coming over the next two weeks, don’t expect The Green Lantern to put up big enough numbers to warrant a sequel, unless it does amazing business overseas. By popular request, TK will have a second review of Green Lantern up shortly, viewed from the perspective of a comic-book fan.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Popper’s Penguins opened at number three (behind Super 8’s $21 million second week total) with a fairly weak $18 million. Given the $55 million price tag and the impending arrival of Cars 2, Poppers may struggle to break even domestically. It also further signals the erosion of interest in Jim Carrey, who hasn’t had a unequivocal success in years.

    In its third week, X-Men: First Class took a 52 percent hit, thanks mostly to the arrival of Green Lantern, and with $120 million so far (and a $160 million budget), it probably won’t break even domestically, either, dampening the possibilities for a sequel. That’s too bad; a First Class sequel is one of the few I’d actually welcome.

    The rest of the box office was largely uneventful. The Sundance flick, The Art of Getting By (formerly Homework) failed to find an audience, even with the name change. On 600 theaters, the film didn’t even crack $1 million. Ewan McGregor’s Beginner’s on the other hand, added 25 theaters and still managed an $8,000 average per screen, and looks to have a decent chance of breaking out (Dan will have that review this afternoon). And in karma is a bitch news, Mel Gibson’s $21 million film, The Beaver is on its way out of theaters after nearly two months having failed to break $1 million.

    Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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